Total Access owner Wyn Davis stands behind fellow engineer/producers Mike Sutherland (left) and Adam Arnold
Legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott (Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie, etc.) turned us on to one of his favorite L.A.-area studios, Total Access Recording (Redondo Beach, Calif.). Owned and operated by Wyn Davis, the facility blends old-school and cutting-edge approaches to recording.
Davis rescued this three-room facility (20×22-foot control room, 20×30-foot ’70s-style dead tracking room and 20×30-foot live tracking room) from receivership in 1981, a time of instability for the music industry—like now. “The music business was undergoing one of those ‘the music business is dead’ phases,” Davis recalls. “It was a hostile environment to start a studio in, but we started doing demos and I signed a bulk recording deal with Greg Ginn, the founder of SST Records, at a very low rate for some guaranteed work, and that got us going.”
Davis hosted sessions for seminal albums with Sublime and No Doubt. He also established relationships with engineers like Scott and David Kahne, and with “legacy bands” such as Dokken and Foreigner. Today, Total Access benefits from client loyalty, but just as important is the business brought in by Davis’ young staff engineers, Mike Sutherland and Adam Arnold.
“They’re young, enthusiastic engineers,” Davis says. “They both function as first engineers and assistants to me when I need them. We all support each other. But they are also involved in a new generation of music and engineering that’s different from what engineers like Ken and I grew up doing. It’s not based on label affiliations; it’s based on getting out there and having personal contact with bands, and the bands talking to each other, and doing a good job and having bands refer the friends they tour with to the studio.”
Similar to his approach to the business side—keeping longtime clients while developing new relationships—Davis blends tried-and-true with cutting-edge technology. The studio still offers an analog signal path (Ampex ATR 124 tape machines, Amek G2520 console), but most sessions are cut and mixed in Pro Tools HD. Total Access also offers a range of monitoring choices—Tannoy dual 15 mains, Meyer Sound HD1 mid-fields and Yamaha NS-10 near-fields—and a selection of outboard processing, including the UREI 1176s Davis found at the studio when he first came on almost 30 years ago.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, I had a lot of pressure applied to move the studio to the Valley or Hollywood,” Davis says, “but I’m so happy I never did that. It’s not glamorous to have to drive across L.A. at 4 o’clock to Redondo Beach, but people still do it, and Ken Scott’s one of them. He drives all the way from out past Malibu, which is incredible because if you think about it, he’s got to drive past 50 studios to get to us. We’re so grateful to the people who feel that the hard work we do for them is worth coming back for.